Tag Archives: Young Adults

Would I do Plastic Surgery?

Editor’s note: This is a follow-up from Tuesday’s post on how youths these days seek to attain that “perfect look”.

I admit, I am a victim of vanity. I wish I was born with a smaller and sharper nose. Doesn’t this sound familiar?  As it is with all vain people, wishing to change parts of our appearance is common, especially if you weren’t born looking like Emma Watson.  But would I ever undergo plastic or cosmetic surgery to change my features? My answer would be a solid no.

A good majority of us have heard the perennial argument against plastic surgery – our features are unique to us and we must learn to love and accept ourselves for who we are. However, I would like to share another reason which I have discovered upon further reflection and introspection.

During my internship, I was tasked to read through some parenting blogs. As a result, I was suddenly exposed to a brand new perspective on things – the world as parents see it. It was interesting to note that amongst the numerous fresh insights I garnered, I also noticed a common thread of thought that weaved through the blog stories – the joy of discovering themselves in their children.

One very interesting post by Nick Pan was illuminating for me. He asked what is, to me, an interesting question: “Would my baby be cute?” It may seem like a quirky fear to struggle with, but it isn’t necessarily so when you stop to think about it. His fears disappeared the moment he laid eyes on her and I quote,

“Then It dawned upon me. My child is beautiful to me because my child is a product of my wife and I. My child looks familiar as she has the genetics from both my wife and I. My eyes, my wife’s grace, my nose, my wife’s lips. No matter how our baby looks, she is going to look familiar; she is going to look like the product of our love.”

So why would I not agree to undergo plastic surgery if I were given the chance to do it for free? It’s simply because I am a product of my parents’ love. I look familiar to my parents, and what they see in me, is what I see in them. Every part of my face and body has come from the unique and intricate combination of my parents’ genetics.

I imagine the joy that my parents must have felt as I was growing up and their sense of familiarity as they saw themselves in me. I love my parents, and no matter how old I become, I still want to look familiar to them.  In addition, even after they pass on, I want to still be able to see their faces in mine.

Similarly, it is these God-given features of mine that I want to see when I gaze into my children’s faces in the future, and to enjoy the beautiful miracle of each child being a product of the love that my future husband and I will have for each other. So no, I will not resort to plastic surgery, because if I do, I know that I would have missed out on this most beautiful miracle that comes from embracing this face, this body that I’ve been blessed with for all time.

This guest post comes courtesy of Rachel Kan, a former intern with Focus on the Family Singapore and university undergraduate. All views expressed in this post are Rachel’s own.


+4 Other Siblings: A life full of excitement, some bickering, and plenty of love.


When people find out that I have 4 siblings, many would say “Wouldn’t the house be noisy? Wouldn’t you always fight?” It’s true that when we were young, and even till today, as teenagers, we often get into tiny squabbles over nothing. But at the end, we always come together and we apologize to one another.

Alicia calls me the “family peacemaker” because I’m calm. Maybe it’s because I see things from a different perspective; from young, my teachers have said that I have a maturity beyond my years, so I feel that I can help to solve any arguments between my brothers and sisters.

I feel we should try to be understanding because you never know whether your siblings have gone through a bad day. Always talk to one another because they (your siblings) would always be the ones who are there for you. They will never give up on you although they might say hurtful things to you. Just know there has to be a reason for every action.

Thus, when I try to keep the peace, it’s important for me not to take sides, and to tell the parties involved how their actions and words would hurt one another.  I try to make sure that both parties are able to reach a consensus.

At times, I do wish to be the only child … but I feel that without the support of my siblings, parents and family members, I would not be the person I am today.

My parents have constantly looked at our strengths from young, and from there, tried to mould us to be a better person. Also, whenever we do team activities, we always rely on each other and use our different strengths to help us succeed. In the process we would help each other improve our weaknesses.

I am close to my four brothers and sisters, and am happy living with them. I can’t wait to continue doing things with them because there are many things that I would love to experience with them.

Having four siblings is truly better.

This guest post comes courtesy of Annabelle Chin, one of Singapore’s first quintuplets. She is the fourth sibling and the youngest daughter. If you are curious about life with quintuplets, click here to read the previous post with Annabelle and her parents, Humphrey and Dorothy.


where to goYou have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

—Dr. Seuss

            Yes, I have brains in my head. The education that I’ve been blessed with has certainly given me that. Yup, I have my feet in shoes. Thanks to the parents who have provided so well for my sister and I. And now, I can steer myself in any direction I choose. Graduation after all, is symbolic of having completed one stage of life, the life very much dictated by a system of regular schedules, deadlines and accountability to so many other people other than you. But past graduation… Finally, finally, we get to choose to follow our passions, without regard to this requirement or that rule. FREEDOM!!

Do we really though?

            It feels like we might trading one set of “requirements” for another. Instead of assignment deadlines, we get project or event deadlines. Instead of an academic grade, we get performance evaluations. We’re still stuck in a system. On top of that, spouse and family will soon add more responsibility than we’ve ever had in our lives! I’m not really on my own.


            It’s not all that dreary. We know what we know. And based on that, we can make the choices that best suit us. There is a degree of freedom after graduation. We’re now free to make our own choices and balance priorities.  For example, unlike school when studying never seemed to end, we can choose to not bring work home. We can choose to separate work and family, stress and relaxation. We can choose not to be caught up in the system. We can steer ourselves in any direction we choose. Suddenly there’s no school administration to tell us exactly how to live our lives. With our financial independence (hopefully), parents also have less of a say in our lives.

            All this might sound really general and vague. But that’s because transition is confusing. Nothing is written in stone and I’m still trying to figure out what I want and what to prioritize. It’s alright though; I just need to go back to what I believe in. Sometimes, it’s handy to have been brought up in a Christian family. It means I have a sort of compass to guide me. Anyway, for the moment, I’m savouring all the possibilities and the knowledge that I am the one who decides where to go…

Do YOU know where you’re going?

Gary’s Musings on Relationships

Recently, we discovered that a Focus friend has started a series of very inspiring and educational FB posts on relationships and we thought you would like to subscribe to his page too – Gary’s Musings on Relationships

Here’s a teaser:

Women and Randomness
Women may appear to be very random at times, but to them it’s not.

Relationship Point No. 5 (Read the other points on Gary’s Musings on Relationships)
Let me explain from my simple illustration:
Women are relationship experts. You can have 8 ladies (a lady mentioned to me that 8 was too much but she could easily do 5) all talking together at the same time on the following topics – children, work, secondary school, Les Mis, domestic helpers, ambitions, etc. And everyone knows what each person is saying. They then end it with a group hug. Individually, her brain is also thinking of many things and connecting everything together. It is a super highway of communication and data exchange.

Guys on the other hand, can only communicate effectively with one other person at a time (as seen is the second illustration). Even then, it takes considerable effort to hear what the other person is saying if it has nothing to do with sports or personal interests. It is a one way traffic. On their own, man have the ability to think about absolutely nothing (something which women will never understand). Men just stare into nothingness and brain waves come to minimal. But that’s another topic.


Back to randomness, I remember talking to a lady friend and the conversation went something like this:
Me: I have to do a talk at the zoo for parents tomorrow afternoon.
Friend (smiling): Oh.
Me: I don’t like the heat and I can imagine myself being miserable in it.
Friend (smiling): Ooo so nice.
Me (beginning to wonder): It’s tough trying to get the attention of all the parents and their kids in the open atrium, in the heat.
Friend (smiling): That’s lovely.
Me: Hello! What are you talking about?
Friend: I’m having my wedding near the Mandai area, and having an outdoor one. It’s going to be a lovely evening, and my guests can see the lovely gardens.
Me: Hey I’m talking about my talk.
Friend: Ooooh. I’m a gal.

The point is this, while it may frustrate the men at times, learn to cherish the uniqueness of these ladies. It makes life a little more colourful and gives men the opportunity to roll their eyes and talk about women.


Gary Koh is an accidental relationship expert on Facebook who may write a book someday if his enthusiasm doesn’t wane – or when his wife needs the money.

Do note that some of the posts are Gary’s insights from reading and attending various relationship books and seminars by the real experts, with his personal touch of humour and conviction (after being married for more than 10 years) added.

Reframe the Singapore Dream: Restoring Thrift

I was wondering recently on a point raised by Focus on the Family Singapore, “Are today’s young adults, like myself more likely to be encumbered by unprecedented debt – an obvious discouragement to starting a family?” From my point of view, at this moment in time, it would seem that the source of that debt would be the house.

Many of us know the Singapore dream as owning one’s own home. Being in my final year of university, I’m just beginning to feel the weight of this “dream”. I’m surrounded by friends who are in the midst of applying for their first HDB flat. All around, I hear concerns regarding which kind of flat to opt for, ballot results, queue numbers, waiting times and not to mention, how one is going to pay for it. With so much in the way of even getting a place to live, it seems difficult to think beyond that to filling one’s home with family.

The push for couples to have more children then, just seem to be at odds with the current situation to me. On one hand, we’re pushed to marry earlier (Jones, 2012) AND have more children. On the other, there may not be a place for young couples to move into because of the housing shortage and resulting costs associated with having one’s own place.

Expenses & Work With the burden of expenses, many would definitely be concerned with career in order to be able to increase one’s own income. For those of my friends just starting out in the first year of work, they’re wondering how long they would have to work before being able to afford just the down payment for a flat (if they even managed to get one in the ballot).

Time & Age Factor in the time one has to wait before being able to move in, while saving up and the HDB buildings are being constructed, and a couple could be close to 30 years old! Hence, the problem of age and decreased fertility too (Heffner, 2004).

Work Hours & Time for Family Furthermore, after a number of internships, and experiencing the MOM recommended 42 hour-a-week office hours, I honestly do not understand how people are able to work and have the time to bring up their own families. Yet, with all the expenses a family would have, I do not see how one might be able to give up work either. I can understand why fertility and full-time employment don’t really go hand in hand (Ahn & Mira, 2000).

I sincerely applaud those parents who are able to juggle the two, as well as those who have given up career aspirations to spend more time with family and have managed to handle their finances.  At this point in my life, I really am not sure how they do it. As a 22-year-old student, I admit that I may still be ignorant and the above may sound like griping about money and working hours. But, these really are sincere concerns. My peers and I will be the next generation of families and this is the situation that we need to work with.

Yes, the government is working on easing these burdens through the building of more HDB flats, improving subsidies and encouraging employers to work with parents who are employees. However, changes take time. In the meantime, perhaps young people like my peers and I will just have to adapt. We may have to “Reframe the Singapore dream” and be prepared to be flexible with our living arrangements. Moving away from the notion of immediately owning one’s own home, couples might have to be open to adopting a culture of rent. Alternatively, if healthy relationships are in place, a couple might have to move in with in-laws for a period of time. And throughout all this, I guess the fact remains that one needs to learn to be thrifty. Many other couples before us have managed to have their own home while managing finances, work and family. With a good attitude in place, it seems possible to make a good life in Singapore.


Ahn, N. & Pedro, M. (2000). A note on the changing relationship between fertility and female employment rates in developed countries. Journal of Population Economics, 15, 667-682.

Heffner, L. J. (2004). Advanced maternal age— how old is too old? New England Journal of Medicine, 359(19), 1927-1929.

Jones, G. (2012). Late marriage and low fertility in Singapore: the limits of policy. The Japanese Journal of Population, 10(1), 89-101

Thank You, Teachers!

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
– William Arthur Ward

Just recently, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several teachers. They teach in Singapore’s Special Education (SPED) Schools and their jobs seem pretty different from the usual image of teachers standing in front of a board in a classroom of quietly seated students. Many teachers from the SPED schools can’t do that. They are literally with their students the whole time the students are in school, from being beside them instead of in front of them during lessons, to going for toilet breaks with their students. This sort of teaching isn’t so much about imparting content about a subject; this sort of teaching is about living. Great teachers demonstrate and inspire students, not just with regards to the tasks at hand (much of which is academic in Singapore), but also to be the best person they can be.

This summer when I observed teaching that wasn’t about imparting content, the valuable qualities of a teacher stood out to me: compassion, passion, patience and creativity.

  • Compassion. This quality is vitally important if we are to truly have an inclusive society and a stronger Singapore. We need to remember the marginalized, not only the obviously needy, but also those students who fall behind. While doing research for a project my friends and I had to complete for a class, we came across cases where teachers had thought it better for some teenagers to leave school. Yet, being allowed out of the structure of school, many teenagers go wayward. Compassionate teachers are in the perfect position to contribute to the prevention of these unfortunate events through grace and compassion.
  • Passion. Unfortunately, there are bound to be some bumps along the way, and so passion would keep a teacher going. I once had a coach who kept encountering problems with the sporting association. Even though it wasn’t easy to work with the association, he believed in his job and kept on coaching. And passion on his part has led to many victories for his athletes.
  • Patience. Another valuable quality that would help a teacher keep going is that of patience. Learning is a never-ending process, with some learning quickly and others requiring more time.
  • Creativity & Flexibility. Along with different amounts of time needed, different people learn in different ways. We should never assume a one size fits all approach. I remember when my mum (a tutor) used all sorts of methods with her students, from allowing them to explore my grandfather’s garden for science to playing with tiny plastic blocks for math. Even though pen and paper practices were important for the sake of exam preparation, all these other approaches appealed to her students’ own curiosity, inspiring and motivating them to learn. And perhaps such methods of actively engaging students are what teach best.

Fortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end of these qualities and I owe much of who I am today to many wonderful teachers I have had over the years, teachers in the form of my own parents, friends, coaches and schoolteachers. So… a huge THANK YOU to you all and a HAPPY TEACHERS’ DAY!!

From Courtship to Marriage – The Unexpected Revelation

Like most men in Singapore, I knew that I wanted to find a nice girl, apply for HDB flat, get married and perhaps have 2 kids (2 children seems ideal for most Singaporean families). Growing up, finding that right girl to be my soul mate constantly filled my mind. I thought that getting attached to the right one would be the happiest thing in the world and life will be perfect bliss thereafter.

During my undergraduate days, I did find the right girl. Rachel and I got to know each other through volunteering for a camp for abused and abandoned children. In one another, we saw compatibility and had deep admiration for each other’s qualities – I liked her because she was gentle, spoke well and had a soft heart for the marginalized in society; she was drawn to me because she saw me as a leader, found me engaging to talk to and appreciated my musical skills.

When we were finally “boyfriend and girlfriend”, it seemed like I had found happiness. We experienced a honeymoon phase where we were content to simply be in each other’s company. In fact, during that phase, we remarked to a friend that we never seemed to quarrel nor disagree about anything. Wonderful as it was, the conflict-free period did not last forever. It was not long before we found things to disagree on.

It started with our own families. As potential in-laws got to know Rachel and I, we discovered that we did not fit their image of the ideal son/daughter in-law. (Don’t get me wrong: our parents have accepted the both of us wholeheartedly.)

Too skinny! My mum said to me after Rachel had dinner with my family one day. You must make sure she doesn’t just eat tofu and rice! How to have healthy grandchildren like that?

He asked you to limit your clothing budget?! How can he do that? Rachel’s mum exclaimed after discovering that I had asked Rachel to cap her spending on clothes. Imagine what he would do when you both are married!

Of course, when our parents said these things, they did it out of love. It did, however, add to our expectations for each other. As the relationship progressed towards preparation for marriage, there were other things to disagree about. We couldn’t agree whether to accept the HDB flat that we had successfully balloted for, we couldn’t agree on every item on the renovation list, the wedding venue and so on. In this transition from courtship to marriage, there was everything to disagree about!

There are 3 lessons that Rachel and I have learnt during this period of transition.

  • Differences will always arise. Mutual respect is key.

No matter how compatible we think we are, Rachel and I are still two uniquely and wonderfully made individuals. As a woman, she is more emotionally sensitive in certain situations. Instead of being critical at her responses, I am learning how to understand her reactions and try to empathize with her. Getting to know Rachel’s family and upbringing has also been important for me to understand why she would like certain things to be done in a certain way.

  •  Differences will always arise. Learn to bend for your partner.

As Rachel and I drew closer to marriage, there were many decisions for which we’ve had to meet at halfway. For example, Rachel was very clear on what she wanted for the renovation of our flat; I was more concerned about keeping the costs low. Eventually, we agreed to forego certain things in order to meet our slim budget. Recognizing that we can’t always meet 100% of our individual goals and making the necessary concessions is important in a committed relationship.

  •  Differences will always arise. Communicate them to your partner!

I’ve learnt that communication with my better half was an art. It is oft said that when a woman declines a gentlemanly gesture from her boyfriend/husband, she does not necessarily mean it. In reality, she is hoping the guy would really perform that gesture. Woe to the man who does not see through that expectation!

There were times where Rachel and I got upset because of unmet expectations. But you didn’t tell me you wanted this! We often said to one another, each time a little disappointed and frustrated that our expectations were not met. Since then, we are learning how to share our expectations with one another and communicate why we felt that need was not met.

Communication is not just one-way. In this case, it is not sufficient to express why your need is unmet. It is also important for the partner to give feedback on why the expectation was not able to be met and whether it was a reasonable expectation.

We are still on the journey and we know it will not be all easy. But we are committed to each other and will not choose life any other way.

– Post by Eugene Tan

Eugene is a civil servant who was recently engaged to his university sweetheart. When he is not travelling to a developing country for work or preparing for marriage, he enjoys playing games on his iPad, strumming his guitar or enjoying food with friends in Little India.